News / 23 April 2015, 4:25pm / NONHLANHLA MKHABELA
Durban - Caring, passionate about children and adventurous.
This was how people who were close to Gertrud Tiefenbacher, known as Sister Stefani since joining an Ixopo mission, described the murdered nun.
Speaking with those close to her, it was evident that Tiefenbacher, 86, touched many lives in the most positive way.
Sydmeen Goldman, 64, a caretaker at Little Flower Secondary, a school Tiefenbacher was instrumental in starting, said she had known her for more than 15 years.
“I remember when I came to work here for the very first time, the first person to give me a warm big hug was Sister Stefani. She loved making other people feel special and appreciated,” she said.
“Every morning and evening, without fail, she would stand at the bottom of the convent and wave at me. I have never known such love,” said Goldman, breaking down in tears.
When her husband, Peter Goldman, passed away in 2004, Tiefenbacher was the one from whom she had drawn all her strength, she said.
“I pray that whoever did this hideous thing gets caught; please pray with us.”
John Vezasie, principal at the school, said he had known Tiefenbacher from when he was 6 years old.
“I could say she practically raised me. She was the kind of person who you could talk to about anything. She was so passionate about children, she never missed any events at the school. Even when I started my family, she would come over to our house and take pictures of my children,” Vezasie said.
Responsible for collection in church, Tiefenbacher would be sure to say “God bless you” to every single person in church after they made their offerings, he said.
Sister Clair Wade of Sacred Heart said Tiefenbacher’s dedication to God’s work always showed through everything she did.
“About four years ago, I asked all the sisters to tell me their favourite prayers so that I could print them out in cards for them and Sister Stefani gave me the words, “You are my God and I love you”. That says everything, she dedicated her entire life to God,” Wade said.
Even so, Tiefenbacher did not miss an opportunity to have some fun when it presented itself, she said.
“She was very adventurous; she went ostrich riding and on game drives.”
Born to a large farming family in Pielach, Austria, Tiefenbacher was adopted at age 5 because her family was poor.
“She did not speak much about her family but we knew she missed them because often we would find her in her room looking at pictures of her siblings. The last time she visited home was in 2004,” she said.
Tiefenbacher, survived by a younger brother and sister, came to live at the Ixopo convent in 1952. Next month she would have celebrated 65 years since taking her vows.
Sister Gerald Frye, sister in charge at the home, said Tiefenbacher died “ready” because she had just completed her retreat, an eight-day period of prayer and silence.